Top UK provider O2 has something new in its toolbox to offer customers eager to make a change from the strict ties of the mobile phone contract. O2 Refresh – not quite the new brand of fizzy drink that it sounds like – is the new way of doing things that may just be a win for the phone owner and a win for the provider. With the system, the user’s bill is split into a binary: one part is the phone plan wherein users pay installments for the cost of the phone, and the other part is the airtime plan that covers the cost of minutes, data, coverage and texts. By more or less giving you a pay-as-you-go smartphone with anytime upgrades, Refresh has an edge in a very important field: users wanting the best phones, but wary of contracts.
The hurdle that most previous users run into with conventional bills is that they are chomping at the bit for a new phone, but haven’t reached the date of their next upgrade yet, which usually comes once a year or once every two years, depending on your plan. With Refresh, if you go along paying your bill as usual and suddenly decide you want a new iPhone 5, you simply pay off your phone plan part of your payment, get your new phone, and then start all over again paying the split bill. If you go happily along for 24-months without switching over to a new phone, you will then be rewarded by having paid off your bill, and get to reap the benefits by only paying one part of the bill thereafter – or, until you switch to a new phone.
O2’s classic example is the average £32 tariff. Under the guise of a standard contract, if you wanted to break the binds at 5 months into your 24-month agreement to get a new phone, you’d wind up paying an extra £608 for goods and services you will never use. But within the range of the Refresh contract, if you wanted to break the terms and get a new device at 5 months in, you would only pay £285 in fees (19 months x half the monthly bill), which is less than half the amount. Plus, if you decided to wait out the 24 month period and stick with your current handset, you’d end up paying only £17 per month after the contract period was over (£17 = the airtime plan half of the monthly £32 charge).
As additional incentive, O2 even offers current customers 25% off their current line payments if they choose to Speed to Refresh, or hurry out of their present contract into the more flexible, non-traditional Refresh setup. The airtime plan charges will vary based on number of minutes; unlimited with 1GB of data is £17, while unlimited with 2GB is £22, and there is a more minimal option with 600 minutes and 750MB for only £12.
The major perk of Refresh seems to be its ultra-transparent pricing schedule, indeed a rejuvenating practice to see among mobile companies. It is an ideal contract for those who will enjoy the vague illusion of freedom, and for those who tend to want to upgrade more than once a year or two. Refresh is not for patient waiters. It is for those who want to be on top of the smartphone scene, and are willing to pay for it. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you won’t be paying full price for an unsubsidized phone; you will be – you simply will be paying it for a maximum of two years, or less. The happy ending of Refresh is that there are no early termination fees, as in most contracts. There is simply the choice you make to pay your phone off, and then start again. It is much more straightforward, a brilliant choice for phone-hoppers, and altogether quite as nice as a refreshing fizzy drink.